Labor Day weekend is traditionally seen as the summer’s last hurrah, bringing a last rush of moviegoers to the Cineplex before the slow months of September and October.
This summer, the volume of moviegoing has faded slowly and steadily after the jolt provided by BARBIE and OPPENHEIMER with their spectacular July 21st opening. Sony’s THE EQUALIZER 3 was the sole new wide release for the holiday weekend, starring Denzel Washington as retired government assassin Robert McCall. Washington has been one of the most prolific and high-profile stars over his 42-year career, starring in 48 movies which have generated $4.1B in worldwide box office.
THE EQUALIZER 3 won the weekend with a gross of $34.5M, which was on the lower end of pre-release expectations. It’s quite possible that grosses would have been higher if Washington and his co-star Dakota Fanning had been able to get out on the road to promote their film as usual, but the actor’s strike has restricted those efforts.
The first two installments of THE EQUALIZER franchise produced similar box office results. This weekend’s opening is right in line with the two earlier chapters.
THE EQUALIZER (9/26/14) – Opening $34.1M, Total Domestic $101.5M, Total Worldwide $192.3M
THE EQUALIZER 2 (7/20/18) – Opening $36.0M, Total Domestic $102.1M, Total Worldwide $190.4M
THE EQUALIZER 3 (9/1/23) – Opening $34.5M
The storyline for THE EQUALIZER 3 follows Robert McCall through his relocation to Italy, as he tries to settle into a more peaceful life. While enjoying his new routine, he discovers that the new friends he has made are being controlled by a local crime boss. As only he can, McCall feels compelled to deliver justice by protecting his friends from their mafia bosses.
Filmmaker Antoine Fuqua is at the helm again, having directed Washington in both of the earlier EQUALIZER movies, THE MAGNIFICENT 7 and TRAINING DAY, which earned him a Best Picture Oscar in 2001. Fuqua has announced that this is the end of the road for THE EQUALIZER, leaving on a high note in terms of quality and box office.
While the Labor Day opening could have done more with stars promoting the film, it is worth noting that both critics and audiences have a favorable view of this picture, with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 75% and 92% respectively, the highest scores yet for the trilogy.
With relatively soft competition in the weeks ahead, THE EQUALIZER 3 may produce better post-opening results than previous outings in the series. Monday’s holiday grosses will move THE EQUALIZER 3 slightly ahead of the opening 3-day results from the previous two chapters. With a production budget of $70M, we expect Sony to see a profit on this project.
BARBIE finished in second place for the second weekend in a row by selling $10.6M in new tickets, a drop of only 30% from last weekend. In seven weeks, BARBIE has become Warner Bros.’s highest-grossing movie of all time with $609.5M domestic and $1.38B worldwide. This makes it the top movie of 2023 and the 15th highest-grossing film in Hollywood history.
BLUE BEETLE held onto third place for the second consecutive weekend by taking in $7.3M and dropping 40%. This brings its total gross to $56.6M domestic and will top $100M worldwide by the end of the week. This picture marks the end of the DC Extended Universe, with the superhero genre struggling to stay relevant.
Warner Bros. and DC are starting fresh under the leadership of James Gunn (director of the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY trilogy) and Peter Safran (producer of AQUAMAN, THE SUICIDE SQUAD and THE CONJURING series). Earlier this year, Gunn and Safran presented a slate of ten upcoming DC projects that make up the next generation of the DC Universe. Their first project is SUPERMAN: LEGACY targeted to arrive in theatres on July 11, 2025, falling under the umbrella of “Chapter One: Gods and Monsters.”
Sony’s GRAN TURISMO: BASED ON A TRUE STORY dropped from its first-place finish last weekend to fourth place this weekend with a gross of $6.6M and a steep drop off of 62%. This was inevitable because opening weekend totals were boosted by including grosses from two weekends’ worth of “sneak preview” screenings. This extra shot amounted to $3.6M in additional ticket sales that did not actually take place on the movie’s opening weekend.
Any lingering momentum that could have carried into this weekend was blunted by Sony’s opening of THE EQUALIZER 3 only one week after GRAN TURISMO’s. It is rare for a studio to open two of its movies in back-to-back weeks. We point to Hollywood’s labor strikes as the reason for this anomaly. Up until five weeks ago, GRAN TURISMO had been targeted to open on August 11th, three weeks before the Labor Day opening of THE EQUALIZER 3.
Alas, Sony’s best efforts to make the most of a difficult situation were not enough to rescue the film. With a remarkable 99% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, GRAN TURISMO might wind up as the best movie of 2023 that very few people saw. After earning $28.7M domestic in 10 days, we project that its final earnings will be $45M domestic and $115M worldwide.
OPPENHEIMER continued its historic run in theatres, finishing fifth in its seventh weekend with an additional $5.5M and dropping 33% from last weekend. Christopher Nolan’s WWII historical drama is already the seventh highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, and will forever be linked to the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon of the summer of 2023. It will also be a leading contender in the upcoming awards season, which will prompt exhibitors to bring it back in the weeks leading up to the major awards broadcasts.
All movies playing in U.S. and Canadian theatres earned $90.2M this weekend, compared with $55.9M last year when the first National Cinema Day was held on Saturday, September 3rd, there were no new wide releases, and the fan-favorite movie of 2022 TOP GUN: MAVERICK earned $6.0M to win first place.
WHERE ARE WE AS OF 8/31
After 34 weeks, the year-to-date totals of the current year are 125% of the box office at this same point last year, and 86% compared to 2019.